I read this book when it first came out, and it remains one of my favorite books. This story with the humanity, or lack there-of, continues to touch me in ways that are hard even for me to completely understand. I enjoyed this audio version of this book as much as when I first read the book! Frank Muller does a masterful job of narration and bringing the characters to life. The creativity and craft exhibited by Pat Conroy necessary to weave this creative plot and convey the tragic saga of this family with the effect that these events had on molding the three children into the damaged adults they became is both sublime and awe inspiring. I was continually amazed and captivated by the exquisite language and imagery used to convey not only human emotions and reactions, but also the beauty of the Carolina marshes and sea coast. The intermittent and unpredictable nature of the parental physical and mental abuse endured by the children, the horrific events that scarred their childhood, together with the forced secrecy relating to those events all left indelible marks and serious emotional scars on each of the children. But, the deep, dependable, and unwavering love between the siblings was the emotional refuge and the succor, not provided by their parents or their world, from which they drew strength and support as they became adults. Although as adults, each of the siblings had very different approaches to deal with the emotional scars left behind by their parents and their childhood, their humanity and love for each other was constant, and was the most indelible afterglow of the book for me. I highly recommend this book! It is both extremely well written, very creative, and a wonderfully affecting story.
The story line was well crafted, and although ostensibly written from a first-person perspective, it was very much like a third person, historical, story-telling perspective. For me, this resulted in the characters being 2-dimensional and anemic. This interesting story could have been much more engaging if the author had found a way to better relate these historical events by having the characters themselves, especially the supporting characters, reveal their thoughts and motivations, through their actions, their own comments, the description of the events, rather than the storyteller relating these things to the reader. I kept feeling like I was being held at arm's length from the characters and the action. The characters never came alive for me.
The skill that Mr. Courtenay displays in all of his books never ceases to amaze me. You fall-in-love with his characters; you root for them; you cry with them; you are sad when they leave the stage, and you miss them. And to think that this is Courtenay’s first book!! Simply awe-inspiring.
"Always leave a little salt on the bread, my dears..."
It is really hard to add to some of the great previous reviews, but I really loved this book. The ease and craft with which Courtenay brings London, in the early 1800’s, alive, with its pickpockets, thieves, orphans and whores, is masterful. In the forward, Courtney states his significant effort and research to make this trilogy a historically accurate portrayal of the events and times. This comes across in the richness and believability of his characters with their independent stories and intersecting lives. The result is a real pleasure to read. Ikey, the successful master fence and “trainer/father-figure/runner” of orphan street kids is an intelligent and complex character that one grudgingly finds likeable at some level. His partnership with the indomitable Mary Abacus, with her innate genius for business and her ability to triumph over the extreme adversities in her life, is one of mutual benefit and ultimately muted affection. Their activities ultimately result in their being parted and each must make the harsh journey from thriving nineteenth century London to Hobart Town, the convict settlement of Van Diemen's Land.
In the backstreets and dives of Hobart Town, Mary learns the art of brewing and builds The Potato Factory, where she plans a new future. But her ambitions are threatened by Ikey's shrew of a wife, Hannah, her old enemy. The two women raise their separate families, one legitimate and the other bastard. The story of Mary’s two “adopted” twin boys, one black and one white, is surreal, sets the stage for the second book, and not to be missed. As each woman sets out to destroy the other, the families are brought to the edge of disaster. This book - part one of a trilogy - is a heart-rendering novel of the souls that were taken to 'The fatal shore' of Australia and survived against ALL odds. This is a story of passion and pain, as well as the careful creation of characters that you won't soon forget and learn to care about. Courtenay creates a novel that is reminiscent of a cross between Dickens and Hemingway - full of passion, yet using a 'down to earth' style of prose with characters that you either hate, appreciate, or love, but are never bored with.
The second book of the trilogy, “Tommo & Hawk” is equally wonderful and engrossing. It made me laugh and cry with, and at, the characters, but more about that later…..
I love the breadth and scope of this extremely well-written story. It spans historical events, geographical landscapes, cultural differences, and highlights defining aspects of widely diverse human experiences, such as the dehumanizing experience of a POW, the importance of maintaining ones??? sense of humanity, and the life of a fisherman. Bryce Courtenay does a masterful job of crafting the characters??? personalities and their stories, in a way that results in the reader/listener loving the main characters for their spirit, their drive to survive, their mutual love and affection, their indomitable positive spirit, and their basic good humanity. Adding to the experience, they come alive through the audio palette of Humphrey Bower, who does a truly masterful job of adding to the believability of these characters, adding to the richness and depth of the tapestry of this wonderful story.
I got REALLY tired of ???, ???he said??? and ???, ???she said???. The dialogue is very stiff, annoying, and one-dimensional. The story was interesting, but I had to force myself to keep listening due to the dialogue.
I liked this book a lot! But the parents, as parents, were very unsettling. Even though I really liked this book, I am still undecided if it would not have been a stronger and better ending to NOT have included the final chapter. Before the final chapter, the story built up to such a poignant and emotionally powerful place. The resolution of A & B???s lives in the last chapter, although forward looking and hopeful, at least for me, dulled the emotional ???edge??? created in the climactic scene.
I thought the story was interesting, but the audio put me off. The switch from male to female characters was disjointed with obivous "start and stop" quality. It clearly sounded sounded like it was recorded in two seperate locations and then mixed, but not well done. McLarty does a good job with the male characters, but most of the female characters sounded almost identical.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I thought that it brought some balanced to the many other treatments of Crazy Horse. Marshall made real for me the lives, intrinsic humanity and basic good values of this nation of Mothers, Fathers, children, and extended families in a culture that for centuries was based on hunting, gathering and defending their homes for survival. Marshal dealt with elegance and sensitivity the incredibly difficult issues facing the Lakota during this period. The tragic nature of many of these issues was evidenced by the lack of effective solutions available to the Lakota nation, and the obviousness to the people at the time that their way of life was irreparably changing for the worse. I've read some reviews here reflecting the view that the author should not have read the book. I most strongly disagree with this view. In my view, no one could have conveyed the rich oral history, family and cultural values of the Lakota people, as well as the poignancy of their plight better than one borne into that culture and steeped from birth in its history and values. I particularly appreciated Marshall's view and focus on what it takes to be a truly great leader in any society. After the book I have a new appreciation of how Crazy Horse became the inspiring leader he was to the Lakota people, not by words and oration, but by example and leading! I strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in understanding this period of time in our history from the point of view of the Lakota.
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